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Biden Brings Debt Crisis Burden With Him To G7 Summit; Confliction Description Of Paparazzi Chase; SBU Identifies Six Kyiv Residents Accused of Exposing Air Defense Locations; Ukraine Grain Deal To Be Extended For Two Months; Heavy Flooding Leaves At Least Nine Dead In Italy; Chinese Comic Apologizes For Joke About Military. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired May 18, 2023 - 01:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Ahead here on CNN, clear and present danger with the U.S. President set to arrive at the G7 summit in Japan. The biggest immediate threat to global stability is not Russia or China for the possible to fall by the U.S. government.

The battle for the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, both Ukrainian forces and Russian mercenaries now claim to be making advances and taking territorial gains. And one night out in New York, two very different versions of how it ended. Just how dangerous and near catastrophic was Meghan and Harry's taxi driver.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN Newsroom with John Vause.

VAUSE: Good with us for another hour of CNN Newsroom, and we begin with the U.S. President set to arrive in Japan in just a few hours for a G7 summit an annual meeting of the world's leading democracies.

On the agenda, the war in Ukraine, F-16s for Ukraine and China's global influence. But at home, the President leaves behind tense negotiations with Republicans in Congress who are refusing to raise the government's debt ceiling. If those talks fail, they're going to be consequences would be felt around the world. They have about two weeks left to reach an agreement. After that the government runs out of money.

Before leaving Washington, President Biden told reporters he is confident the U.S. will avoid default. The White House though is cut short this overseas trip because of the crisis over the debt limit canceling visits to Australia and Papua New Guinea.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: What I have done in anticipation that we won't get at all until I get back is I've cut my trip short in order to be for the final negotiations and sign the deal with the majority leader. I made clear that and I'll say it again, America is not a deadbeat nation. We pay our bills. A nation has never defaulted on its debt and it never will.

And we're going to continue these discussions with congressional leaders in the coming days until we reach an agreement. And I have more to say about that on Sunday. And I want to have a press conference on this issue. As it stands now, intention is to go to the G7. Back here on Sunday.


VAUSE: CNN White House reporter Kevin Liptak is live in Hiroshima this hour. Kevin, will Joe Biden face some criticism there or maybe backlash from other world leaders at this summit over the debt ceiling crisis and potential damage it could do to the global economy?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I certainly think he will hear concern from the leaders who he meets around the table here in Hiroshima. Certainly this issue of the debt ceiling would affect their countries as well. And as the President arrives here in Japan later today, this threat of an American default really does, or you know, way as the biggest issue facing global stability at this current moment. There are a number of other issues as well. But this clearly is the most pressing.

Now, as the President's aides were deciding whether he should go on this trip or whether he should stay home, they really were weighing the various tradeoffs of different options. Ultimately, they decided that they could postpone their diplomacy. But what they couldn't postpone was this drop dead date of June 1st of when the United States could potentially run out of cash to pay its bills.

So, the certainly -- President certainly is leaving some leaders here disappointed that he won't be able to fulfill his engagements in Papua New Guinea, and Australia. And certainly it is sending the message, at least implicitly that he does have more important things to do back home.

It also doesn't do much to rebut the notion, felt met among many leaders, particularly European leaders, that the American democracy is just not really very functional at the moment. So the President will attend the G7. And over the course of their discussions, the President's aides I really did make clear that this would be a summit that he really did want to want to attend, skipping this summit would be a last minute option.

And of course, there are a number of issues that he wants to get these leaders talking about face to face around the table. This the G7 has really emerged as the most important global block when it comes to dealing with Ukraine when it comes to dealing with China. The President's aides describe it as quote, the steering committee of the free world and so it was important for the President to meet these leaders face to face.

And now on Ukraine they are expected to announce new sanctions. They're also expected to discuss China's economic practices.

[01:05:03] So when the President lands later today his first port of call will be a meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister but certainly a very packed agenda for the President as he continues this trip in Asia. John.

VAUSE: Kevin, thank you. Kevin Liptak live for us in Hiroshima, Japan. Thank you

Now to Ukraine in the past few hours explosions have been hurt in the capital Kyiv and other regions after a nationwide air alert. Ukraine's air defense system has been activated, but officials say debris falling over the Capitol has sparked at least one fire.

This comes just two days after Russia fired an unprecedented number of missiles, including hypersonic missiles across Ukraine.

And the brutal flight for the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut has seen significant territorial gains for both sides. Apparently. Ukrainian troops are said to be advancing and liberating areas on the city's outskirts. Well, new images show intense shelling and heavy destruction in the western part of Bakhmut as Russians tried to drive out Ukrainian forces.

The head of the Wagner mercenary group says his fighters have edged forward inside the city clearing buildings still controlled by Ukrainian troops.

Meantime, six bloggers in Ukraine are facing criminal proceedings for posting unauthorized images the country's air defense systems during Russia assault in Kyiv earlier this week. CNN Sam Kiley has details.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The Ukrainian authorities have arrested six people they described as bloggers, people who are alleged to have accidentally perhaps posted real time information that could lead to improve targeting by Russia in airstrikes over Kyiv.

Now doing so is banned as indeed is live reporting from the scenes of recent airstrikes by media organizations such as us for the same reason. The Ukrainians don't want the Russians to be able to improve their capability to strike at targets within Ukraine.

Now this latest move has come as the continued battle for backward continues to be incredibly violent and bloody. The latest satellite imagery demonstrating once again the scale of destruction of that town with small pockets of Ukrainian resistance continuing inside the town against the Wagner mercenary organization whilst the Ukrainians are boasting advances to the north and south of the city in a kind of push and pull battle which could presage if there were Ukrainian breakthrough there an opportunity to have big egg be exploited during the much vaunted summer offensive. Sam Kiley, CNN in southeast Ukraine.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: The U.S. official says the Patriot missile defense system suffered minor damage in a Russian attack near Kyiv this week, but has remained operational. Still CNN's Matthew Chance reports the view from Russian media is completely different.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): It's a state television where Russia fight sits information war. The story the U.S. Patriot missile battery Russia insists it destroyed in Kyiv. U.S. officials tell CNN the system remains operational but this is too rare a victory for the pro Kremlin media to play down.

The much promoted Patriot was destroyed by Kinzhal, the presented gloats our hypersonic missiles were so fast they cut through Ukraine's air defenses, like a knife through butter she adds.

After the six hypersonic missiles, Ukraine says it shot down a fantasy number the presenter says and more than we actually fired. A senior Ukrainian official now tells CNN only minor damage was caused to the Patriot air defense system when one of the Kinzhal was shut down at low altitude on Tuesday morning.

The official said the U.S. aid system will be repaired soon, and an investigation is now underway into how the Patriot was targeted.

Elsewhere, Ukraine says small advances have been made around Bakhmut. These night images appear to show an armored push in the fields outside. Russian state television is in the city. Touring devastated front lines under constant fire with Wagner mercenaries, who say they're confident they will prevail.

We will take Bakhmut eventually this Wagner commander tells the Russian TV crew following him around, but what cost we don't know, he admits.


Another says they're shelling us from afar because they can't defeat us in close combat. Were too strong though he says. Ukrainian officials confirm fierce fighting in the city captured on this latest drone video, areas of Bakhmut suburbs devastated, but now being liberated the Ukrainian say.

And back on Russian TV, there's growing acceptance that what was meant as a short offensive in Ukraine has spiraled out of control, exposing weaknesses and divisions in the country. It's not a special military operation says this guest on state television, but a faithful wall that Russians must win or face destruction.

As Ukraine prepares for a counter offensive to reclaim occupied land, it seems Russia is also bracing for a fight. Matthew Chance, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: And later this hour i critical grand deal between Russia and Ukraine has been extended details on why that's vital for the global food supply. That's coming up in about 20 minutes from now.

Differing accounts continue to emerge about what happened in the late hours of Tuesday night in the streets of Manhattan. The spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex says Harry and Meghan and her mother were involved in a near catastrophic car chase by paparazzi.

The New York Police Department, the city's mayor, the person driving the taxi hailed by the couple and all suggested the so called chase wasn't so dangerous nor automatic and certainly did not last for two hours. Still their taxi driver says the couple seem nervous and scared.


SUNNY SINGH, TAXI DRIVER: That if you're like I was in danger, but you know, Harry and Meghan they look really nervous. When the paparazzi started taking pictures on one side from the back, somebody said oh my god, you know and then the look on their faces you can tell that they were nervous and scared.


VAUSE: More details now from CNN Jason Carroll reporting in from New York.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): A near catastrophic car chase with paparazzi. That's how the spokesman for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex describe what happened to Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex and her mother immediately after they left an event in New York City Tuesday night.

A member of the Duke and Duchess his security detail called the incident chaotic telling CNN and involved a dozen vehicles including cars, motorcycles and scooters that were jumping curbs and running red lights. The NYPD did not report any collisions, injuries or arrests, but a law enforcement source called the incident dangerous and said there were several close calls between the car that Duke and Duchess were driving in and the car behind them and said an NYPD protective detail following the couple had to use evasive maneuvers.

The Duke and Duchess released a statement that said in part the relentless pursuit lasting over two hours resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers. New York City Mayor Eric Adams question whether their pursuit was two hours, but chastise the paparazzi.

ERIC ADAMS, NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: You shouldn't be speeding anywhere. But this is a densely populated city. I thought that was a bit reckless and irresponsible.

CARROLL: The couple's switch cars more than once during the chase even taking a cab at one point. The taxi driver who picked them up described them as nervous as they entered his car, but said to WNBC the chase was not that aggressive.

SINGH: We were just making left turns and right turns and that's it. They were not being that aggressive while they were driving behind.

CARROLL: They took refuge at the NYPD 19th precinct on the Upper East Side before returning to the private residence in Manhattan where they had been staying. The incident reminiscent of the crash in Paris that killed Prince Harry's mother, Princess Diana 25 years ago after a high speed car chase and crash involving paparazzi.

The couple were married five years ago and share two children Archie and Lilibet. They moved to California in 2020 and have consistently raised concerns about their family's personal safety, particularly Prince Harry, who has been open about his trauma and grief stemming from his mother's death when he was just 12 years old saying this to ITV in 2019.

PRICE HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: Every single time I see a camera every single time I hear a click every single time I see a flash, it takes me straight back. So in that respect it's the worst reminder of her life.

CARROLL (on camera): And if a couple wasn't already dealing with enough.


According to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office, a man was arrested outside the couple's home in Montecito, California. This happened on Monday. The man arrested for prowling. We did reach out to the couple's spokesperson, but did not hear back. Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: Joining me now from New York is CNN royal commentator, Sally Bedell Smith, it's good to see you.


VAUSE: OK, so this was either a near catastrophic, potentially fatal car chase, all as the New York Police Department described it. There were numerous photographers that made their Harry and Meghan's transport challenging, which means the whole thing has been either played down by the police or totally overblown by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. And if so why?

SMITH: Well, that's a very good question. It's not as if Harry and Meghan are unfamiliar with the disconcerting, shall we say, flashes of strobes from cameras, everywhere they go, they face that. I think what happened last night is that it was the magnitude of it and the intensity of it. And the fact that they were followed, which I'm sure has happened to them before. I know it's happening to Harry, maybe one car or following him. But this was a collection of cars and motorbikes. And I think it was, you know, it's obviously the sort of scene that was, as we can imagine, reminiscent of what happened to his mother when she was driven into the tunnel in Paris, and then they had a terrible car crash, and she died when he was 12 years old.

So, I think he, well he acknowledged that it was reminiscent of what he thought that his mother might have experienced. But there were so many details of it that were inexplicable. Why would there have been -- what had to have been a relatively slow car chase through the streets of Manhattan for almost two hours, is hard to understand.

VAUSE: And according to the funnel agency, which paid for the photographs and the video, they told People Magazine, there was just four freelance photographers, three of whom were in cars, and one of whom was riding a bicycle. And they had this one of the four SUVs from Prince Harry security escort was driving in a manner that could be perceived as reckless. So that's their side of the story.


VAUSE: Here's how the taxi driver who was driving Meghan and Harry describe the actions of the paparazzi.


SINGH: We were just making left turns and right turns and that's it. They were not being that aggressive while they were driving behind us.


VAUSE: So does this raise questions about security around Harry and Meghan, which, according to Forbes, could cost as much as $4 million a year?

SMITH: Well, it does. I mean, certainly, if one of their drivers was driving that fast and recklessly. It definitely raises questions. And you know, I don't know what the answer is, in an ironic way. They're more vulnerable, I think, in the United States, and they would have been had they stayed in England, in a very protected environment with the royal family behind them to lodge complaints. And to have you know, complaints that would have some heft.

VAUSE: Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, here's a few headlines. Buckingham Palace silent on near catastrophic car chase with paparazzi. Buckingham Palace she has no comment on Meghan Markle, and Prince Harry's New York City car chase. Buckingham Palace won't comment on Meghan and Harry's new catastrophic car chase, do you get the idea?


VAUSE: That seems to be appropriate in some ways, given Harry and Meghan have stepped back from their royal duties a few years ago. But what about privately would you have expected some outreach perhaps, you know, from keep towels or from Harry's brother principle you? SMITH: Well, perhaps not from Prince William, I don't know. Because I think their relationship is at the moment sort of in tatters. But you would think that his father would have gone just say, how are you doing? Knowing having been there on the night of August 31st in 1997. And having had to deliver that horrible news to his son, and knowing that his former wife had been assaulted by paparazzi.

So on a human level, one hopes that if he hasn't already, that he would have reached out and said, you know, expressed his concern and his empathy.


VAUSE: Yes. There is some reporting that maybe that has not happened as yet. But that's obviously very difficult to confirm, but --

SMITH: It is very difficult to confirm.

VAUSE: Sally, thank you so much for being with us. We really appreciate it.

SMITH: You're welcome. Thank you, John.

VAUSE: Still ahead here on CNN, muerte cruzada or mutual death, Ecuador's President invokes a constitutional power, dissolve the National Assembly before it could impeach him. Pouring fuel on fire or the country's political crisis.

Also ahead, Israelis and Palestinians bracing for more unrest and violence ahead of a controversial march by thousands of Israeli nationalists, through Jerusalem's old city Muslims quarter. Those details and much more when we come back.


VAUSE: Ecuador is set for snap elections after the President has all the National Assembly Wednesday before lawmakers could vote on his impeachment move deepens Ecuador's ongoing political crisis. Journalist Stefano Pozzebon is following developments now from Bogota, Colombia.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Just hours after signing the decree to dissolve Congress and call for new elections, Guillermo Lasso spoke exclusively to CNN to explain his decision.

GUILLERMO LASSO, ECUADORIAN PRESIDNET (through translator): This is a provision of the Office of the President that is granted to me by the Constitution. Let me be clear, my decision follows the Constitution.

POZZEBON: The provision is called muerte cruzada, the mutual death and it has never been invoked before. Some say it's illegal. Lasso says the impeachment trial he was facing the no stand.

LASSO (through translator): I'm innocent. They were trying to push me out against the law for crimes I did not commit.

POZZEBON The opposition accuses Lasso of embezzlement, profiting from contracts related to the export of crude oil, and with the president rejecting all allegations both sides accepting that a new election is the best path forward.

MARCELA HOLGUIN, ECUADORIAN OPPOSITION LAWMAKER (through translator): The democratic solution was for the president to resign and go home. But if the president invokes the mutual death, we are ready for it.

POZZEBON: The Electoral Council has pledged to call the election within 90 days. But for now, Ecuador remains in a limbo. With Congress closed, Lasso would rule by the Cree until the vote and has pledged to boost salaries with lower taxes and to rein in a brutal spike in crime that has shocked the nation.

Just last year, violent deaths increased by over 90 percent. And Ecuador, a generally peaceful country until not long ago, now sees the type of violence of narcotics warfare typical of Colombia and Mexico.

There is no security this country has become no man's land, says Ramir Hidalgo, who like everyone in Quito, he's waiting to see how the next few weeks will play out, hoping that in extraordinary times somehow, some stability prevails. Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, Bogota.


VAUSE: Security forces in Jerusalem them are on high alert ahead of a controversial annual march through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.


Thousands are expected to take part in flag day Thursday. The parade is organized by right wing and religious organizations marking the reunification of Jerusalem after the Six Day War. Previous marches have seen violent clashes and this year, Israel is bracing for a potential rocket fire from Palestinian militants in Gaza. CNN's Hadas Gold has our report.


HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): A typical day in the Old City of Jerusalem. Shops are bustling. Tourists taking in the sights, religious pilgrims praying. But Thursday afternoon, these alleyways will be filled with thousands of marchers with Israeli flags. As part of the annual Jerusalem Day, when Israel celebrates taking control of East Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 War, turning what was a divided city into what Israel calls its undivided capital, but what Palestinians want as a capital for their future state.

This year, authorities are bracing for violence whether on the streets or in the skies. It wasn't 2021 as the thousands of Israelis made their way to the Old City for this very march that Palestinian militant group Hamas fired rockets towards Jerusalem, setting off an 11-day war. GOLD (on camera): This is where one of the more contentious aspects of the flag March will take place. This is Damascus Gate. It is one of the main entrances to the Old City for Muslims and it's through this gate is the Muslim Quarter. But on Thursday, thousands of Israelis will be here marching and dancing with Israeli flags before making their way through to the Muslim Quarter.

GOLD (voiceover): The marchers will then make their way to the Western Wall Plaza just below the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Al Aqsa Mosque compound. Over the years, the marches become a magnet for religious right wing nationalist and a pretext for violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Far right Israeli ministers like Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich have announced they will join the march this year. Most of the Palestinians we spoke to say they'll close shop and avoid the city.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There are many problems on this day, but we avoid problems although it's our land and Jerusalem is our beloved. God knows how much we love it. But we need to keep away from them.

GOLD: Much of the international community considers East Jerusalem where the old city is located to be occupied territory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not good to come to the us that we will go your home and close your shop and close your -- it's not good. That is my land. It's my land.

GOLD: In Gaza, the days old ceasefire with militants there will be tested as groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad once again threatening to respond. A city on edge bracing for another explosion. Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem.


VAUSE: And anger over the soaring cost of living and the government's economic policies abroad thosuands onto the streets of Buenos Aires Wednesday. Many have lashed out at the tough measures imposed on Argentina by the IMF in return for a $44 billion loan. Inflation last month reached 109 percent. The government says there will be more interest rate hikes and continued intervention by the central bank in currency markets.

Still to come, ensuring compliance of a fragile grain deal. CNN goes on borders officials from Ukraine and Russia work side by side inspecting cargo ships near the conflict zone.



VAUSE: Welcome back. I'm John Vause and you're watching CNN Newsroom.

With the conflict in Sudan now into its second month, the UN is asking for $3 billion to provide life saving aid and protection, the largest ever appeal for Sudan. Most we spent helping millions avoid starvation, $500 million has been allocated to support refugees in camps in neighboring countries.


RAMESH RAJASINGHAM, HEAD, UN HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS AGENCY: Today, 25 million people, more than half the population of Sudan, need humanitarian aid and protection. This is the highest number we have ever seen in the country. The needs in Sudan are fundamental and widespread as you can expect from a conflict, protection from fighting medical support, food and water sanitation, shelter and trauma care.


VAUSE: UN says more than 800,000 people have been displaced, more than 200,000 others have fled Sudan since the fighting began between two rival military factions.

Russia and Ukraine have agreed to extend a deal to export Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports. The agreement is critical to the world's food supply and was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations. It was scheduled to expire Thursday, but there's been extended for another two months, the third time the deal has been renewed. Here's what the US reaction is to this latest extension.


VEDANT PATEL, US STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON: We strongly support the UN's and Turkey's efforts on the deal which keeps global food and grain prices low. But as Secretary Blinken has previously said, we should not need to remind Moscow every few weeks to keep their promises and to stop using people's hunger as a weapon in their war against Ukraine.


VAUSE: CNN's Becky Anderson followed a team of international inspectors as they check the ship heading out to sea with a cargo of Ukrainian wheat.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): An unassuming looking port in Istanbul with global significance. It's from here that inspection teams from Russia, Ukraine, the UN and Turkey deployed to vessels anchored offshore.

(on camera): The ship that will be boarding is anchored in the Marmara Sea. It left Chornomorsk Port in Ukraine on May 12th carrying about 26,000 tons of wheat. And it is one of the last vessels to transit under the current terms of the Black Sea Green Deal.

Well, this vessel is actually quite low so we're quite lucky because I might have had to actually climb up the side of this boat but I think that it's an easy -- it's easy access on. Hi.

(voice-over): These inspectors are looking for any unauthorized cargo or crew.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Captain, we're going to conduct the inspection.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we're going to start with the documentation checklist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We already done (inaudible).

ANDERSON (voice-over): Mohamad is the captain of the Pacific Rose.

(on camera): So, these are the passports is

MOHAMAD BALKIS, CAPTAIN, PACIFIC ROSE: These are the passport, and the crew is ready for a check phase.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Also on the checklist, the shipment itself. In this case, over 26,000 tons of wheat. To get here, Mohamad and his crew had to navigate through what is very much alive conflict zone

BALKIS: Well, this is safe. I contact with control.


BALKIS: Chornomorsk control and Odessa control by -- in his area Everything is safe. The contact -- for (inaudible). I think all is to GCC, ETA to Istanbul. When it take to Istanbul everything is OK.

ANDERSON: Since the beginning of this deal, some 1,800 ships have done this route and been inspected. That some 30 million tons of foodstuffs feeding more than 150 million people and perhaps as importantly bringing the price of food globally down by some 20%.


(on camera): The work of these inspectors now goes on after Turkey's president announced an extension of the deal. Meaning for at least another two months, the world can breathe a sigh of relief. Becky Anderson, Marmara Sea, CNN.


VAUSE: There are new details about the case against suspected Pentagon leaker Jack Teixeira. Prosecutors say his superiors caught him mishandling classified information on multiple occasions. And yet the Air National Guardsmen was still able to spill US government secrets on social media. CNN's Oren Liebermann has the story.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: According to the latest court records filed in the case of Jack Teixeira, the 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard accused of leaking highly classified information online. He was repeatedly admonished and reprimanded within his own unit for inappropriately accessing classified information. And yet, as we've learned from prosecutors and from the court filings, he retained access to that classified information for months.

In three separate Air Force memos from within his unit, we get a look inside those admonishments, those reprimands against his behavior. First in September. On September 15, 2022, he was observed taking notes on classified intelligence information, according to this record, and even putting that note into his pocket. For that he was reprimanded. Yet, one month later on October 25, 2022 after the cease and desist order that came from the previous instance, he was seen doing a deep dive on intelligence information, which he didn't need to be doing. Another reprimand there.

But at that point, according to these records, he was even offered the chance to change jobs and train into a different position, still -- which would have still given him access to sensitive and classified information. And yet once again, on January 30th of this year, one of his superiors observed him on a classified information system known as Joe Wicks, viewing content that wasn't related to his primary duty. That superior told other superiors, and yet at least according to these records, there was no action taken against him. And at least at the time, he retained his access to classified information.

Prosecutors say he used that access repeatedly to do deep dives on classified and sensitive information, and then use that access to spread it online to a group of friends and others on a Discord server. It is for those reasons that prosecutors in this case, say to share it needs to remain in custody, in detention as this process plays out. His attorneys have argued that he is not the threat that the prosecutors portray him as and that she should let him be out. That detention hearing coming up later on this week, on Friday.

It is worth noting that last month, we learned that not only were two of his superiors, including the commanding officer of his unit, suspended because of this ongoing investigation into how he had so much access to classified information that kept on leaking, but also the unit itself, their mission was suspended pending this investigation, the mission given to other units to perform that handling sensitive information.

We have reached out to both the Air Force and the National Guard Bureau for a statement or an explanation as to how to share was reprimanded and admonished for accessing this classified information inappropriately. And yet, the problem persisted. Oren Liebermann, CNN in the Pentagon.


VAUSE: More bodies have been recovered in Kenya believed to be members of a religious cult, which urged followers to starve themselves to reach heaven. The death toll now stands at 227 after 16 bodies were exhumed Wednesday from mass graves in a forest. Over 30 people have now been arrested, including the leader of the cult. More than 600 people have been reported missing.

A search is underway for at least 50 migrants and two bus drivers kidnapped in Central Mexico. Authority say the migrants were traveling in a tourist bus that was later found abandoned in Nuevo Leon State. It's not clear where they were actually heading but according to news agencies, nine migrants from Venezuela and Honduras managed to escape their captors and have been rescued.

Well, a dire warning about a critical warming threshold, that's up next. How climate scientists are predicting soaring global temperatures in the next five years.



VAUSE: At least nine people are dead after what some have called unprecedented flooding in Italy. Officials say parts of the Emilia- Romagna received about half of their annual rainfall in 36 hours. That led to rivers overflowing their banks and inundating thousands of acres of farmland. Emergency officials say at least 13,000 people have been evacuated and several remain missing according to a local CNN affiliate.

The flooding has led to the cancellation of Sunday's Formula One Grand Prix which was said to be held in the region. Barbie Nadeau has more.


BARBIE LATZA NADEAU, CNN REPORTER: Roads turn to rivers as rain many hoped would alleviate drought conditions, now a serious threat in the Central Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. There are already victims and rescuers are searching for the missing. Hundreds of people were rescued from flooded homes, many brought to safety and rubber dinghies on flooded streets.

More than 5,000 people are under evacuation according to the Civil Protection. Among them a four-month-old baby and an elderly handicapped man.

The region had been undergoing severe drought. In 2022, low rainfall and extreme heat depleted the river, Po, a crucial waterway for transport and irrigation. A winter with very little snow did little to help. And as bad as these floods are, they're only a drop in the bucket for what is needed to reverse the drought.

Earlier this month, a downpour swelled the Po by five feet. This deluge of water will raise it even more but it is still well below average. Extreme weather events are threatening other Italian regions from Venice where the MOSE flood gates have been raised to protect the city from high water, to Sicily were heavy storms down trees and flooded homes. Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN, Rome.


VAUSE: Heavy flooding is also battering two countries in the Balkans. The military has been deployed in Croatia after some areas received more than 10 centimeters of rain in two days. Officials say a river in Southern Croatia has reached unprecedented levels. And across the border, floodwaters have inundated homes and cut off roads in the western parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Rains are expected to ease though come Thursday.

Our warming planet is set to get a lot hotter in the next five years with the stuff new warning from climate scientists that global temperatures will almost certainly reach new record highs. The World Meteorological Organization says it's also more likely than not that the global temperature will temporarily exceed 1.5 degrees above pre- industrial levels for at least one of the next five years.

1.5 is the holy grail of the Paris Climate Agreement. And even at that point, sea levels are expected to rise by 10 to 30 inches, putting 10 million more people at risk from coastal storms as well as flooding. Heat waves will continue to get worse, exposing 14% of the world's population to extreme heat at least once every five years. As meteorologist Jennifer gray reports, the impact becomes progressively worse in tandem with every increase the planet warms above 1.5 degrees.

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: So a report just released by the World Meteorological Organization, they point out that that global average of temperatures reaching that 1.5 degree threshold in the next five years, there's about a 66% chance of that. So it's more, more likely that this is going to happen. 98% chance of one in the next five years are going to be the warmest on record, which is no surprise because we've seen the warmest years on records for the last several.


So countries pledged in this Paris Climate Agreement to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, preferably that 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial temperatures. Now science consider that 1.5 number is when we're really going to start seeing the tipping point, where extreme weather could increase dramatically. And we could see dramatic consequences from that extreme weather.

So as mentioned, the past eight years have been the hottest on record. We are seeing a an El Nino year coming up. We have an El Nino watch right now. And so El Nino years is typically where we see warmer years because that the equatorial region in the Pacific is warmer, so it results in warmer temperatures around the globe.

However, the last couple of years we've been La Nina pattern, we've still seen those record temperatures. But you can see by this graph, whether an El Nino or La Nina temperatures have been steadily warming. Although you can see those red dots that indicate the El Nino years are typically much warmer than the La Nina year.

So the El Nino watch has been issued. It's issued when conditions are favorable for the development of El Nino, or La Nina within the next six months. So there's a 62% chance of El Nino developing during May to July of 2023.

VAUSE: Joining me now is Bill McKibben, the Founder of Third Act, which organizes people over the age of 60 on issues of climate change. He's also the distinguished scholar at Middlebury College and author of "Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet." It's good to see you.

BILL MCKIBBEN, FOUNDER, THIRD ACT: Very good to see you, John.

VAUSE: OK. So this report, it's shocking but it's not surprising, given the rate at which we're still pumping out carbon pollution into the atmosphere, because these forecasts actually be on the conservative side. Because there's a constant stream of climate predictions, which actually have turned out to be much worse than expected.

MCKIBBEN: If there was one motto for climate scientists over the last 35 years, I'm afraid it's been faster than expected. Every time we make a prediction, the Earth moves faster and more dramatically. But what we're seeing here is a real inflection point, the temperature has been going steadily up. We've been having these massive heat waves but that's all been with a La Nina cooling period in the Pacific.

Now, El Nino is starting to kick in and, man, Katie bar the door, the temperature is going places we've never seen it before.

VAUSE: Yes. And the Paris Agreement to keep planetary warming below an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, is in fact a legally binding international treaty on climate change. And yet, under the implementation and compliance section of their website, there's no word on enforcement. They have a committee but that's about it. But despite all of that, does this treaty apply if 1.5 is exceeded only on a temporary basis?

MCKIBBEN: Well, the treaty promises that they will do everything in their power to try and stay as close to 1.5 as possible and below two degrees. But what we keep finding is that, you know, even below 1.5, we're seeing remarkable damage. So whatever the temperature is going to be, wherever it's going to settle in the next few years, the job remains the same. It's to quickly get us off fossil fuel. And that's the reason that governments have so much trouble keeping those Paris promises. The fossil fuel industry is hamstringing them in one place after another. So that's why we build movements. That's why we fight.

There's no longer, and this is the good news, a big technological or financial obstacle. They've brought the price of renewable energy down so far that we now live on a planet where the cheapest way to produce power is to point a sheet of glass at the sun. If we wanted to do this fast, we could. That's the real sadness here.

VAUSE: Which gets us back to the Paris Agreement, which is an internationally binding treaty. Is there any way to put those simple cost effective solutions to this problem into effect and make it so -- make it done in a way that it's mandatory for countries around the world?

MCKIBBEN: The Paris Agreement is a set of voluntary pledges by different countries. There's no way to use it to enforce anything. What we have to do is build movements strong enough that politicians actually fear them. And that's why things like, Extinction Rebellion, Friday's for the Future, Third Act, that's why these have been key players right alongside the engineers who are dropping the cost of solar and wind power. Those are the forces that might actually start overwhelm mean the power of the fossil fuel industry.


But, man, it has to happen fast. The scientists tell us we need to cut emissions in half by 2030.

VAUSE: When it comes to breaking heat record, Scientific America makes this point. We now have more than a century of global mean temperature data. That means it should be getting hotter, not easier to achieve new records. If there was no trend, we would expect to see fewer records as time passes and the data we've collected better captures the full range of natural climate variability.

So instead of all of this, we're actually setting heat records on Wednesday, for example, in Japan, 35 weather stations experienced the hottest Mayday on record.

So, no matter how you want to slice and dice as to the climate crisis, it's getting worse. So is this report likely to do what countless of other reports have failed to do? And that's bring about real change in how we deal with global warming.

MCKIBBEN: The report won't do it but the havoc that that report is forecasting is clearly going to change the politics of this. We're ramping things up another notch here. And sooner or later, people are going to get so scared and so angry at the oil companies that they really demand action. And we seem to be getting nearer that point now. This is scary.

VAUSE: Bill, thanks for being with us. We really appreciate it.

MCKIBBEN: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: Well, it's hardly surprising but turns out China's Communist Party can't take a joke. Coming up, a $2 million fine for a gag about two dogs and a squirrel.


VAUSE: Paris court has denied former French President Nicolas Sarkozy's appeal on his 2021 conviction for corruption and influence peddling. The court upheld a prison sentence of three years, two years without a suspended. Sarkozy is expected to be under house arrest for one year and will be required to wear an electronic bracelet.

Sarkozy denied any wrongdoing. His lawyer called this decision unfair and is planning to appeal to the French Supreme Court. Sarkozy served one term as French president and has faced several legal battles since leaving office.

It's not funny because it's true. Government centers in China issued a $2 million fine over a joke that two dogs and a squirrel. Apparently the punch line was inappropriate. CNN's Steven Jiang live for us now from Beijing.

So, we all know government censors don't really have much of a sense of humor but this seems churlish.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Yes. This is sort of tragedy for this comedian because not only this one punch line has cost him his career, as you mentioned. Now he's potentially going to jail as we have just learned from Beijing police that they're now launching a formal investigation into this case. And in 2021, China enacted law banning and insults were slander against the military personnel. And the authorities have prosecuted people for that crime and in previous cases, sending them to prison for at least seven months. So that's the kind of consequences and chilling effects we're talking about.

So no wonder this arm forms mostly young fans are rightfully fearful that this could really spell the premature death of an entire genre that had just gone from underground to mainstream. And remember, this is also a reminder of the extremely delicate line that comedians but also other artists and public figures have to strike on a daily basis in this highly sensitive environment where everything can become a taboo almost overnight.


Now this offending joke sounds very innocuous to most people outside of China because this comedian known as House was describing his thought when seeing two stray dogs he had adopted chasing a squirrel. The phrase he used fine style of work and the capable of winning battles. The problem is that slogan was first uttered by none other than Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 to describe the military. So now this loose references not only potentially landing him in jail, but effectively shutting down his company, which by the way, fired him on Wednesday. And now they have been banned from saving more shows nationwide, almost.

So this is why out of the say this is the latest reflection of Xi Jinping governing philosophy that is reasserting the Communist Party's absolute control including ideological control in every aspect of Chinese society. And, John, that is really no joke and with global implications as well, probably not positive ones the government wants to see. John/

VAUSE: Yes. Steven, thank you for that. Steven Jiang, our Beijing bureau chief. We appreciate it.

Well, the US state of Montana has banned TikTok move intended to protect people's private data from the Chinese Communist Party, according to the governor. Republican Greg Gianforte says TikTok is just one app tied to foreign adversaries. He's banning other apps including CapCut, Lemon8, Telegram Messenger, but that applies only to government devices.

The TikTok ban takes effect January with fines up to $10,000 a day for app stores that host TikTok. Several organizations are planning legal challenges claiming a violation of free speech.

It seems we still just can't get enough of the Titanic with never before seen details of the sunken liner from a massive digital scan of the wreckage. Researchers have created an exact digital twin of the Titanic, according to a statement from deep sea investigators, Magellan, and filmmakers at Atlantic Productions.

It's said to be the largest underwater scanning project in history, 10 times larger than any underwater 3D model ever attempted, with more than 16 terabytes of data comes more than a century after the Titanic sank, and when Rose wouldn't share her floating door with Jack.

Thank you for watching CNN Newsroom. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. My friend and colleague Rosemary Church will be back after a brief break. You're watching CNN.